Retro Review: Kinsey

Some have classified him as a demon. Hell bent on publicizing the underbelly of our society and destroying our youth. Others remember him as a remarkable scientist who did some ground-breaking work in the study of Gall Wasps. Oh, and that sex study he did.

The new film “Kinsey” stars Liam Neeson as the eclectic scientist Alfred Kinsey who is taking a lot of pride in his most recent research into the mating cycle of the Gall Wasp, while continuing his tenure as a biology professor at Indiana University. Kinsey develops a personal relationship with one of his students, Clara McMillen (Laura Linney). Clara’s interest in Kinsey comes when she becomes more curious about the rather reclusive professor and his surmounting work.

As a biology professor, Kinsey begins to see a vast array of data on sexuality especially after he gets visits from students who are confused and often sexually repressed. He begins to realize that there isn’t any reliable research to help people explore and talk about sex in a healthy environment.

Kinsey decides that something has to be done and embarks on a journey to uncover the sexuality of human beings from a purely scientific perspective. Kinsey develops an interviewing technique that allows a researcher to chronicle the sexual identity of a subject. But to gather the amount of data needed for the study, Kinsey hires a team of researchers, who included Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard), Wardell Pomeroy (Chris O’Donnell) and Paul Gebhard (Timothy Hutton), to help him.

Kinsey’s exploration into the world of sexuality predates the sexual revolution of the 1960s and becomes the center of controversy during the 1950s. Throughout his life, Kinsey never was sure his life’s work made a difference. Even science can’t completely uncover where sex ends and love begins.

“Kinsey” is a remarkable film because it asks questions and poses new ideas. What is really amazing about the film is that a lot of our ideas on sex haven’t really changed since Kinsey did his study. There are still a lot of closed doors and lack of understanding when it comes to one of life’s most basic acts.

Liam Neeson’s performance as Kinsey as the structured scientist is utterly brilliant. You can literally see all the closed off emotion and repression going on inside the man as he tackles this controversial subject without judgment. His performance is profound and fractured but also emotionless. He nailed the part and it surely is one of the best performances this year.

Laura Linney’s loving yet slightly tormented wife is also a great supporting performance to Neeson’s Kinsey. Like Neeson, she is able to display so much through just one glare. I also really liked the dynamic she had against Sarsgaard for Kinsey’s attention and love.

The film itself tries to portray Kinsey as a scientist tackling a very difficult subject. Like all scientists, Kinsey becomes obsessed and involved in his work.

Screenwriter and director Bill Condon’s vision of the man is that everything in his life is to be treated as scientific structure. That structure and focused understanding faces off against the raw emotion and complex feelings of human beings in the most private of acts. That is a most complicated feat.

I liked that Condon didn’t shy away from some Kinsey’s more controversial analyzes. I also liked that we saw a lot of different sides of the man but the film manages to stay the path of science even through some of the harder scenes.

Another gem of acting in the film is the casting of John Lithgow as the “straight-arrow” but disgruntled father of Kinsey. Lithgow is amazing in this performance which in some ways reminded me a lot of his performance in the film “Footloose” except taken to the next level. The very last scene that has Neeson and Lithgow together is so intimate and heartbreaking that it goes down as one of the greatest scenes I have seen this year. There is just so much in that scene.

For me, “Kinsey” is one of the best films of the year just because it allows the audience to think, understand and then allow the audience to make its own conclusion. But you obviously you have to see the film first. So what are you waiting for?

4.5 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer.

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